Healthcare is a universal right. However, it’s one that depends on your immigration status in the United States, unfortunately. This has become more evident with the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine as many officials across the country are saying that they will not offer the vaccine to undocumented residents.
It’s long been known that the country’s Brown and Black residents have long suffered the consequences of inequality in the nation’s healthcare system. But now, as those very communities are hit the hardest by the pandemic, they’re being denied the one tool we have to help relieve the community’s suffering.
Update January 14, 2021
Mexican officials are ready to invoke parts of the North American trade agreement to ensure vaccines for undocumented migrants.
Earlier this month, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts announced that undocumented people will not be included in the vaccination plan. He has since attempted to at least partially walk back those comments. Mexico immediately raised the alarm and offered to help undocumented migrants in the U.S. receive the vaccine.
According to Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) has provisions about the health of migrant workers. In the agreement, which President Trump touts as his accomplishment, the countries have agreed to safeguard the lives of migrant workers.
Minister Ebrand is prepared to invoke the provision designed to protect vulnerable migrant workers. As stated in a press conference, the Mexican government is prepared to consider any effort not to vaccinate undocumented migrants in the U.S. a violation of the trade agreement.
Mexico’s AMLO offers to vaccinate migrants who are unlawfully living in the U.S.
Mexico’s president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), recently announced that he was ready to provide the COVID-19 vaccine to undocumented residents living in the United States.
“It’s a universal right. We would do it,” President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said before his regular daily press conference after the press asked him if Mexico would step up to help vaccinate undocumented migrants living in the U.S. – many of whom are Mexican nationals.
Although, like many of AMLO’s promises, he offered little in the way of details and many are rightfully skeptical of the promise given his government’s limited ability to deliver the vaccine to people within his own country. It also wasn’t clear which migrants in the U.S. would qualify under AMLO’s vaccine rollout.
AMLO announced his intentions after officials in Nebraska said undocumented residents wouldn’t be eligible.
AMLO raised the possible vaccination program after the governor of Nebraska said that undocumented residents of his state likely wouldn’t get vaccinated due to their immigration status.
“You’re supposed to be a legal resident of the country to be able to be working in those plants, so I do not expect that illegal immigrants will be part of that vaccine with that program,” Governor Ricketts said during a coronavirus briefing.
Gov. Pete Ricketts is a member of Trump’s Republican Party but his comments about workers in Nebraska’s meat-packing plants provoked criticism from public health and migrant advocates.
Roberto Velasco, a senior Mexican diplomat for North America, responded to Ricketts on Twitter. “To deprive undocumented essential workers of #covid19 vaccination goes against basic human rights,” he wrote on Twitter, including Ricketts’ Twitter handle and citing text from the U.N.’s declaration of human rights.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leader of pro-migrant progressives in the Democratic party of President-elect Joe Biden, also spoken out firmly against Ricketts’ statement.
“Imagine being so racist that you go out of your way to ensure that the people who prepare *your* food are unvaccinated,” she wrote on Twitter.
Undocumented residents fill many of the nation’s riskiest “essential” jobs.
Study after study have shown that most of the nation’s “essential workers” are people of color – with a large number being undocumented migrants. The same applies to the country’s meat-packing jobs.
According to the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute, it estimates 11% of Nebraska’s meat-packing workers – and 10% of the workers nationwide – lack legal immigration status.
Meanwhile, since the pandemic began, there have been sporadic yet severe outbreaks of COVID-19 among meat-packing plants in the U.S., helping spread the virus around rural America where the plants are concentrated.
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